This comic is part of a collection of comedic takes on airport security accompanying MSNBC’s announcement of new scanners to be used by the Transportation Security Administration. Unfortunately, for many people affected by the Agency’s policies, the procedures TSA has used recently are not particularly amusing. Until the new scanners are introduced, travelers are left with the unenviable choice of opting to either have an essentially nude photo of themselves taken to be analyzed by TSA employees, or undergoing an ‘enhanced” pat-down that generally includes contact with passengers’ most sensitive areas.
What concerned me in this scenario was that the TSA, as a governmental agency, is not responsive to the normal market forces through which aggrieved consumers can usually speak. Americans are used to being able to vote with our wallets against commercial practices with which we disagree. Not so for government screening of air travel. People are going to fly, and if they want to fly, they are going to go through these security measures. Passengers cannot select an airline with different security requirements, nor can they impart any direct pressure on TSA to change its policies. Additionally, as opposed to most governmental actions, airport security is not as responsive to voter pressure. No politician wants to be the president or congressperson who advocates a rollback of security measures, and then is blamed for a subsequent terrorist act. The invasiveness of airport security seemed to have nowhere to go but up. Not traveling or taking alternative transportation may be options for some, but realistically air travel is a requirement for many people. Though complaints against the new procedures were numerous, it was easy to see how TSA could have continued with business as usual and ignored travelers’ ire.
Nonetheless, TSA chose to continue to try to improve its methods and create a compromise between air traffic safety and passenger privacy. TSA should be applauded for finding a way to accomplish its central mission in a way that will be more respectful to the desires of passengers and present them with a real alternative, rather than a choice between equally invasive options. I encourage passengers and media outlets that have expressed displeasure with the introduction of the previous batch of scanners to be equally vocal in support of the new, more respectful technology. Hopefully this will only be the beginning of a movement towards more logical and effective ways to police airports that will deal with the real issues of public safety.